Acclaimed writer Michael Chabon once wrote that when he started reading Love in the Time of Cholera, he thought it was that most elusive of literary works, the perfect novel. But, he continued, a little past halfway, of course it all fell apart. Chabon might as well have been writing about Resistance 3.
The first half of the game should be taught to game students as a lesson in level design. It's that tight, fluid and, most importantly, playable. You're immediately sucked in, checkpoints are very well placed, and it's more than enough fun you don't mind repeating short sections when you must. The early structure inherent in Resistance 3 a captivating, emotional elegance coupled with satisfying gameplay — a pair of traits that often doesn't get along well in the shooter genre. I'd replay the first half of the game several times; unfortunately, I'd be saddled with those latter chapters, too.
The game's story begins a few years after the events of Resistance 2, in late summer 1957. Joe Capelli — the man who killed Nathan Hale! — has settled in the hopefully named Haven, Oklahoma, with his wife and young son. Dishonorably discharged from military service after firing his pistol into Hale's Chimera-infected face, Capelli is intent on living out the rest of his life protecting his family, enjoying whatever peace may abide in a world now vastly changed. The planet is swiftly slipping into the pit of Chimeran domination, and that means eradication of the human race. He intends to stay in Haven until research scientist Dr. Malikov turns up, promising a way to kick the Chimera in the teeth and perhaps reverse the dismal course of events. He offers renewed hope for mankind.
Resistance 3's plot follows a standard quest theme. Capelli must travel from Oklahoma to the center of Chimeran operations established in a now-devastated New York City. In between, by intent or accident, Capelli winds up in several recognizable United States locales, including the Mississippi River, St. Louis, a rural town in Pennsylvania, and, finally, a rather unfortunately unrecognizable New York City. In the Resistance story, this American jewel has been decimated by Chimeran invasion and human efforts to push them back at all costs; but the New York City in the game looks like any other major urban burgh of the 1950s, not the East Coast spectacle to which we're accustomed. Famous landmarks are only portrayed in cut scenes, not within gameplay itself — unlike, for example, Crysis 2, which did a fantastic job reproducing in its missions portions of a more modern New York City.
The third installment of the Resistance series succumbs to a few clichéd shooter sequences: Among them are a boat level and a train level. They're well done, though. In the boat level, the big action is limited, but the scene set is infused with an eerie isolation, as if Malikov and Capelli might be the only two men left alive on Earth. The train sequence is largely a pure action level from beginning to end, as you're attacked from both within and without the train. The pace is relentless, but there is plenty of health and ammunition available; gameplay frustrations never get in the way of excitement in this on-rails battle. There's a military aircraft sequence, too: Capelli and his cohorts are attacked by airborne Chimeran ships. Just when I expected someone suggest Capelli man a high-caliber, door-mounted machine gun, saving the day, the scene ends via another resolution. Turns out the whole cut scene segment merely pushed forward the narrative, without interactivity in combat. I was impressed that Insomniac Games didn't take the bait: If there's an aircraft under attack, and that aircraft is armed, in shooters, somebody is going to have to gun down those marauders. It's such a common device that I didn't want to play through it yet again. I was pleased when I didn't have to.
Within the story there are two notable episodes. In the first, Capelli stops off in a Pennsylvania stronghold, once a small town built over a deep mining complex. The place is populated by a religious community who believe God is their only. They believe the Chimera to be the earthly manifestation of the Devil himself; though Capelli isn't God, he'll help free the people from their sinister bondage. The religious element is handled with a gentleness uncommon in today's shooters. The people aren't cultists or fervent lunatics. They're merely drawn together by the only hope they believe remains: their common faith. They most remind me of the Quakers.
The other episode takes place in an abandoned state penitentiary commandeered by human rogues. Capelli is captured, and he must fight his way out of the tumbledown facility through several brief scenarios. "Escape the jail" is hardly an unusual mission objective in games, but in Resistance 3, the level is tightly constructed and doesn't bog down getting lost among cell blocks and detention tiers that all look the same. The whole piece, while not terribly well fitted into the overarching plot, provides some nice variation from the main New-York-or-bust story line.
In the Pennsylvania mining town, halfway through the game's chapters, I first began worrying Resistance 3 might be going south. There are boss battles scattered throughout the chapters. The initial spate of level-ending conflicts is well executed, balanced and fun to play. It's just difficult enough for challenge, but not so hard you'll grind your teeth and put away the game for a while. The battle against the beast in the mines, which should be a whopper, is far too easy. In the context of previous boss battles in the few hours I'd spent with the game, it made no sense. I thought, "If this is the way things are going, this game will be over in an hour or so."
At this point, the developers must have also recognized they might come up short on length because that particular boss battle is not the way things go farther down the line. Things get really heavy. The back half of the game is much more difficult than the first, and it will take you a lot longer to finish. It's inexplicably difficult based on what came before, and ramped up more like falling off a cliff than sledding down a snowy hillside. Gone are the properly considered checkpoints and fair, logical gameplay. In latter missions, I found myself repeatedly dying and required to redo long, arduous portions of the game. When I finally hit the nail on the head — it took quite a while — I had no idea why that one time I succeeded in just a heartbeat. My tactics hadn't improved. If anything, wearying of the grind, my approach was worse: rushed, ugly and, in large part, insensible and insane. Yet all the mean old aliens were good and dead.
Playing Resistance 3 on normal difficulty in a moderately inquisitive mode — searching some areas, but hardly peering into every nook and cranny — will take about 10 hours. That's a solid length for a contemporary shooter. Generally, I'd loudly applaud 10 hours of campaign. But this game would've benefited from having a good stylist take a couple of hours off the top. The 10-hour mark is reached only by a fair amount of grind in the last few chapters. While the early chapters, I'd have happily played over and over again for the sheer pleasure, I frankly got sick of the whole mess at the very end. Let the Chimera have the planet; I'm going home to the farm.
Despite what I'd insist are serious pacing issues, Resistance 3 is a unique shooter among the crowd. Until I stumbled past the halfway point, I'd have told anyone who asked that this game was better than Resistance: Fall of Man and leagues ahead of the grittier Resistance 2. While the second title was a competent game, it changed too many of the Resistance signature gameplay mechanics for the worse.
The third installment cleans up the untidy state of affairs created by Resistance 2 in its attempt to remodel the franchise. Though your physical status is represented by the now-ubiquitous bloodshot, graying screen, boosting your health is strictly a pack pick-up affair. There are a few health packs placed in the levels, and slaughtered Chimera drop a few. However, overall, the game doesn't rain health packs, so taking cover and paying attention to survival is important.
Perhaps the grandest redux is the weapon wheel. The first game featured this mobile armory — anything you picked up, you kept — but Resistance 2 did away with it in favor of the primary/secondary weapons system popular in today's military shooter. Limiting weapons to a mere two or three, while suitable for a Call of Duty game, makes no sense in Resistance. There are a lot of innovative, fun weapons in Resistance 3, all of which you can upgrade twice by using them in combat. If you could carry only a couple at a time, you'd miss experimenting with some of the better or wilder weapons. It's tragic, considering in one play-through you would not have time to get the hang of most weapons, let alone upgrade them a single step.
This title, like several other current and forthcoming PS3 shooters, supports Move control. Similar to the other already released Move-compatible shooters, I found the motion control implementation stable and accurate, but most players will break out their Move gear for a change of pace, sticking to DualShock for the bulk of offline and online play.
Resistance 3 also brings back co-op campaign for the main story. No specially designed co-op auxiliary campaign here. The mode is far, far better for it, no matter how unrealistic it may be to have both players doing the exact same things, playing as the very same character. It's great fun to play co-op split-screen or online via PlayStation Network. Co-op makes even the trailing chapters more bearable; after all, misery loves company. (Online play requires a single-use code, one of which comes with new retail copies of the game. For used copies and rentals, a code can be purchased on the PSN.)
The new Resistance does away with the massive matches of its immediate predecessor. We're back to a maximum of 16 players in a match. Although Resistance 2's competitive multiplayer was ambitious by any standard, and Insomniac made it work technically, the huge numbers of players on one team created too many design problems. Players had to be split into squads, and the maps were so large and battles became so chaotic that the point of it was lost.
There is, however, no shortage of competitive multiplayer modes right out of the box. In addition to the usual and expected Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, the online component features Chain Reaction, Capture the Flag and Breach. Chain Reaction is a type of take-position/hold-position game played between teams, with goal opening or closing a Chimeran wormhole. Breach is a Resistance rendition of the popular, team-based, attack-and-defend shooter game type. Resistance 3 adds perks to spice up the combat — you can earn and deploy specialty items, like turrets and more. The Berserk skill, whereby you go nuts on the other team after charging up a meter with consecutive kills, has been carried over from Resistance 2.
Resistance 3's competitive multiplayer is smooth, engrossing and apt to soak up a lot of your online gaming time after you've polished off the campaign once or twice. You can't help but have a roaring good time online with Resistance's brand of weaponry. However, the multiplayer problem for Insomniac and Sony is that new versions of two immensely popular online military shooters, both with deeply entrenched gaming reputations, are soon headed to market. In many cases, this limits the life of a robust Resistance 3 online community to a couple of months. Some Resistance fans will stick with the game or spread their time across two or three multiplayer shooters, but a lot of good, consistent, amiable players will take a hike and rarely come back.
For quite a while into the campaign, Resistance 3 was destined to be a near-perfect shooter for me. I'm doubly disappointed the first half's stellar gameplay and quality narrative elements couldn't last the whole way through. In the end, this is a good game, but it's definitely several steps away from a great game. Value is reasonably a top consideration in game design. It's commendable to produce a 10-hour game, but Resistance 3 is not a 10-hour game. It's a seven- or eight-hour game stretched on the rack, and that kind of torture hurts.
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